“Everything, everywhere, all at once.” That is the level of action required to keep global warming within safe levels by the end of the century. When it comes to growing, distributing (and drinking) wine, sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have, it is now an urgent imperative for the entire global industry. Sustainable winemaking helps protect the planet (which in turn protects people, land and climatic conditions needed to produce some of the most palatable varietals) and can end up cutting costs in the long term while improving future harvests.
So what’s been happening in the world of sustainable winemaking? Here are five stories and trends getting us excited and giving us hope for the future of wine (and, let’s face it, humanity in general).
1. Coffele shows how how regenerating land can also regenerate communities (and that sheep and wine are the perfect pairing)
Regenerative practices are, in essence, a holistic, localised approach to cultivating the land. It’s focused on fostering abundance – not just of food and wine, but of human spirit and soul. Coffele winery, situated a few steps from the Soave Castle right near Shakespeare’s “fair Verona” in northern Italy, is one example of how regeneration through thoughtful collaboration with local businesses, community and nature can benefit people and the planet.
Coffele’s Cascina AlbaTerra cooperative `’social agriculture” initiative implements sustainable and organic techniques – including sixty sheep and goats who graze between hillside pastures and the adjacent vineyards – as part of their “soil-ution system.” The project also helps facilitate contact with nature for people who are struggling with social, physical, and economic hardships, helping them heal and re-integrate back into society. Cascina AlbaTerra highlights the importance of diversity, sustainability, and respect for the environment, an ethos foundational to Coffele’s winemaking.
2. The future will be regenerative: 10 wineries have been awarded the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC)
The age of regeneration is upon us! Terrazas de los Andesa has become the 10th winery in the world to receive the ROC, according to Harpers Wine & Spirit. But what is the ROC and why is it a potential game changer for the industry? Regenerative organic growing methods go beyond “natural,” “biodynamic” and “organic” practices and actively aim to replenish and rejuvenate soil (which then also helps absorb and store carbon), conserve water, support animal welfare, and empower farmers and farm-adjacent communities. The ROC was set up in 2017 by the Regenerative Organic Alliance as a way to recognise growers who adhere to the highest standards of organic agriculture.
Terrazas de los Andesa joins nine other winemakers who have achieved the ROC since 2020, including Domaine Bousquet (Argentina), Tablas Creek Vineyard (California), and Troon Vineyard (Oregon). The ROC could become a gold standard for winemaking as the impacts of climate change and nature loss become increasingly severe.
3. Bees and bats and … wine? Oh my!
In the infamous Bordeaux region of France, between the petit verdot and merlot, there is a buzz in the air. Not the buzz one feels after a couple glasses of sauvignon blanc, but the buzz of bees pollinating and propagating the rich biodiversity needed to keep nature alive and thriving. These bees are part of (or likely descended from) a research study spearheaded by sustainability-minded winemakers in the area attempting to verify the positive impact of pollinators, spiders and bats in the vineyard.
Bees and bats feed into Bordeaux’s plan to reduce carbon 43% by 2030 – specifically carbon sequestration. According to Forbes, the two wineries doing most of the research around bees and bats (also dubbed the region’s “eco heroes”) are Domaines Denis Dubourdieu (Châteaux Reynon, Haura, Doisy Daëne, Cantegril & Clos Floridène) and Vignobles Arbo.
Quoted in Forbes, Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu, owner of Domaines Denis Dubourdieu, explains that “As part of our study, we installed 15 bee houses 5 years ago to analyse how bees impact biodiversity within the vineyard.” The results showed that bees play a vital role in maintaining the diversity of plants in and around vineyards, and this, in turn helps build soil health creating stronger, more efficient soil-based carbon sinks.
4. International wineries come together for climate action
First reported in Fortune, winemakers across the world are joining forces to help lower the environmental impact of viniculture while protecting growers from the rapidly escalating impacts of climate change. The International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), a non-profit started by Familia Torres and Jackson Family Wines in 2019, has now grown to around 40 members.
The IWCA takes a practical approach to climate action by focusing on carbon reductions and standardising the way their members measure and account for greenhouse-gas emissions. It welcomes growers at all stages of their sustainability journey. Over the next year, the collective is launching two new initiatives: a category of membership (IWCA Friend) that encourages sommeliers, retailers, importers and other key components of the industry to join, and the Country Ambassador Program, a communications and recruitment drive which aims to promote the work of IWCA and engage new winemaker members, particularly those operating in Chile, Portugal, the Pacific Northwest and France.
5. Wine GB appoints its first sustainability ambassador
Wine GB is taking some serious steps towards recognising the critical role of sustainability within winemaking. In August, the national association for the English and Welsh wine industry appointed its first ever sustainability ambassador. The role is meant to heighten commercial awareness of the different national and international sustainability standards, schemes and practices which can vary dramatically depending on location.
This position is coming at a critical time for England and Wales’ blooming wine industry. According to Beverage Daily, wine production across the two countries is expected to double from 12.2 million bottles in 2022 to almost 30 million by 2032. Viniculture is the fastest growing agriculture sector in the region so developing in a sustainable manner will be critical to keep the UK’s net-zero and nature plans (or lack thereof) in check.